North Carolina Mobile Betting Bill Dies in House

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Despite clearing three committees in less than 24 hours, the North Carolina mobile betting efforts failed on the House floor on Wednesday evening.

The state House took up two bills approved by the three House committees in an attempt to legalize mobile wagering as the legislative session comes to its closure next week.

The North Carolina House appeared to make progress toward legalization Wednesday afternoon, and they passed one sports betting bill, SB 38, by a 51-50 vote.

However, the second bill, SB 688, failed its second reading on the House floor by the same margin, 51-50.

SB 38, the new mobile wagering bill, was working in tandem with SB 688, which cleared the Senate last year.

Rep. Jason Saine told a local newspaper that the passage of both measures were necessary for the successful legalization of mobile sports betting in North Carolina.

With SB 688 failing in the lower chamber, Tar Heel State may not legalize mobile wagering in 2022.

Though Saine told the media late Wednesday that sports betting legislation “isn’t totally dead” this session, the state lawmakers have to do a miracle to iron out differences over a final piece of legislation.

The legislative session ends on June 30.

What Happened on the House Floor Wednesday?

The North Carolina mobile betting bills reached the House floor Wednesday after passing through three positive committee votes in less than 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Senate Bill 38, a new companion bill, gained initial approval by a single vote after the Representatives excluded collegiate sports betting from it. Meanwhile, the main bill, Senate Bill 688, failed the House approval with the narrowest margin of one vote.

After voting down SB 688, the 120-member House blocked an attempt to return it to the rules committee.

The lower chamber must give its final approval to the narrowly passed SB 38 in a second vote. However, it is dependent on SB 688. The upper chamber must also concur with SB 38 before the legislation can be sent to Gov. Roy Cooper. The governor has indicated his support for legal mobile wagering.

However, citing his conversations with the governor’s staff, Saine told WRAL that the Cooper won’t sign the bill if he doesn’t receive both bills.

What Went Wrong After Quick Committees Approval?

Saine, the biggest proponent of the legal mobile wagering in NC, said before this year’s short session started that he believed there was enough support for the legislation in the House.

After the uneventful first few weeks of this short session, the three House committees cleared the two mobile wagering bills at lightning pace, sending the measures to the House floor Wednesday.

Despite an apparent understanding between the chambers and smooth sailing in the House committees, the legislation hit a roadblock as several House members were vehemently opposed to the mobile wagering. One of the leading opponents, Rep. Larry Pittman, equated sports betting to monetizing human trafficking.

The major turning point was the House adoption of an amendment that banned wagering on all college sports in a state with several Power 5 college athletic programs. The ban would mean a reduction in potential tax revenue from the industry.

The amendment on college betting not only prohibited wagering on in-state teams but also banned all college sports betting.

Some lawmakers believe gambling is immoral and shouldn’t be legalized in North Carolina.

Numerous emotional speeches against the bills led to the highly divided vote, effectively delaying the legalization process for at least another year.

What’s Next?

If Rep. Saine and other proponents of legal mobile wagering pull together an unlikely passage of NC mobile wagering, the residents could place legal mobile bets in early 2023.

If the state lawmakers fail to legalize mobile sports betting this year – currently the most likely outcome – the NC mobile wagering proponents will have to wait until the 2023 session to try again.

SB 688 would have created up to 12 mobile sports betting licenses and allowed the state’s professional sports venues to have sports betting lounges.

SB 688 cleared the Senate and its first House committee last year. Before this week’s dramatic three-committee approvals, the legislation remained idle for the first few weeks of this year’s session that started May 18.

Earlier this week, the NC House lawmakers introduced a substitute bill – SB 38 – to increase the mobile wagering revenue from 8% in the original legislation to 14%. The new companion bill also raised the mobile license fee from $500,000 to $1 million.

Currently, retail sports betting is available at two tribal-owned Harrah’s casinos in western North Carolina.

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